The battle over carriage horses in the city is dragging on and on, with no end in sight, and, as yet, no bill introduced in the City Council that would actually ban the industry and replace it with the classic cars favored by animal rights group NYCLASS. While Bill de Blasio famously promised “an immediate ban” on carriage horses during his campaign, the mayoral reality hasn’t been quite so neat; a recent Newsday story found that 19 city council members are undecided on the merits of a ban, versus 15 who support it and eight who oppose it.
Neither side definitely has the 26-vote majority they’d need for victory, and in the meantime, everyone is ramping up their publicity. First there was Liam Neeson’s big visit to the Clinton Park stables, where he called carriage driving “a beautiful industry.” And yesterday, PETA released a new video wherein millions of celebrities denounce the carriage horse industry as cruel and inhumane. If you were waiting to hear what Dave Navarro’s eyebrows think about horses before you made up your mind, wait no more.
Here’s the full video:
As you can see, it’s also a not-so-subtle nudge to de Blasio to go ahead and take action on the carriage horses; viewers are being encouraged to tweet at the mayor with the hashtag #TYdeBlasio. Neither the mayor nor Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito, who also supports a ban, have spoken publicly about the bill in quite a while. Mark Viverito told WABC in January she was “not sure” when a ban bill might be reintroduced.
In the meantime, we’ve got this ongoing war of words and famous people. PETA spokesperson Dan Mathews tell us the non-profit’s reliance on celebrities is “a numbers game: if it was my boyfriend in the video, all of our dozens of friends would see it; when someone like Pink, who has 22 million followers is in it, millions take notice and become more informed on the issue. Because this is an issue involving tourists, it’s of interest to everyone around the world who visits the city, not just New Yorkers.”
Christina Hansen, not surprisingly, feels differently. She’s a carriage driver and a spokesperson for the Horse and Carriage Association of New York, an industry group. She tells the Voice via email that the latest PETA video is “a tone-deaf compilation of old, tired, and false material,” adding, “This is a desperate attempt on the part of a few very wealthy donors to PETA and to Bill de Blasio’s mayoral campaign to remind the Mayor who bought and paid for him on this issue.” (Hansen says she suspects, too, that PETA sped up the footage to make midtown traffic look more dangerous than it is: “The horses trotting in traffic have obviously been sped up, from the rate of their footfalls.”)
This fun and productive back-and-forth between the two sides will continue until the City Council pulls itself out of its apparent stupor and just puts this thing to a vote already.
Hansen’s full statement is on the following page.
The PETA video is a tone-deaf compilation of old, tired, and false material. For instance, none of the pictures of accidents in the video is more recent than 2007! (Some of the photos of dead horses that died accidentally are from 15 or 20 years ago… Funny how PETA doesn’t show photos of the thousands of dead animals that it KILLS every year…)
This is a desperate attempt on the part of a few very wealthy donors to PETA and to Bill de Blasio’s mayoral campaign to remind the Mayor who bought and paid for him on this issue. NYCLASS boardmember Wendy Neu is one of the top 10 or 15 donors to PETA, giving in excess of $100,000 every year (how much in excess we don’t know…). Neu also spent $387,000 on New York City Is Not For Sale, and led many of the Anybody But Quinn rallies. She expects for her investment to pay off, and is no doubt frustrated by the Mayor’s inaction on the carriage horse issue in City Council. In 2011, Manhattan Mini Storage gave $125,000 to fund the Lea Michele PETA ad shown in the video. Manhattan Mini Storage’s CEO at the time was NYCLASS co-president and co-founder Steve Nislick. Nislick said in 2011 on the tapes I recorded of him at a NYCLASS function that PETA was “great with the celebrities.” So, PETA’s helped a handful of their big donors out by lining up a bunch of footage of celebrities, NONE of whom has been to the stables or who has any knowledge of horses.
I have personally invited Kathy Najimy to tour the stables with me, and she has refused.
I think by now most New Yorkers are educated enough about the carriage industry to be unswayed by PETA’s rehashed hyperbole. The idea that the majority of New Yorkers are against carriage horses? Quinnipiac says that’s not true. The horses live in concrete boxes? Every inspector, reporter, veterinarian, and City Council member who has been to the stable knows that’s a lie. Carriages are banned in London, Paris and Toronto? False. Carriage horses go to slaughter? Not true – they currently get adopted into retirement homes through, but will be at risk for slaughter if they are banned and rendered homeless all at once.
The overwhelming majority of New Yorkers know that the carriage horses are well-cared for, that we do good things for the horses by giving them homes and jobs, that they have a retirement program through Blue Star Equiculture, and that the anti-carriage-horse activists have spent 30 years lying about our industry to promote a radical animal rights agenda. New Yorkers don’t want working class carriage drivers with families to lose their livelihoods. They don’t want more cars. They want to keep the city’s iconic carriage horses.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 3, 2014